I checked another item off my bucket list yesterday, flying into Whitehorse on an Air North jet. It’s my first time going to the Yukon, the last of the Canadian provinces or territories left for me to visit. The flight was smooth, and the service friendly. As we travelled north through the clouds, I reflected on some observations made the previous day, during my flight across the country.
We had checked in at 3 a.m., which is really an inexcusable time to expect anybody to be awake, and my first thought was that the airlines have either given up worrying about who gets on the plane or the staff have developed the ability to see beyond the mask when matching faces to passport photographs.
My second thought was that although many companies have used the pandemic to update and upgrade their products and processes, Air Canada has apparently decided to stay with the tried and true. The inflight breakfast was the same as it was 751 days ago, the last time I was on a plane: omelet, sausage, salsa, individualized tub of flavoured yoghurt and a stale croissant with a plastic container of a fruit-based product that looked like strawberry jam. Coffee or tea. I guess I could have had the pancakes instead.
I had forgotten the massage chair vibration of light turbulence, and the stronger pockets when you must close your eyes and imagine you are in a boat whistling across the wind-chopped lake, bumping over the waves and laughing as the spray hits your face. Instead of being strapped into a tube at 28,000 feet.
In Toronto, I discovered that the elevator to the Maple Leaf Lounge is holding on to its reputation of being the slowest elevator in an airport. Anywhere.
The flight to Vancouver was on a bigger plane than those which can land in Charlottetown, and so the safety briefing was a video rather than a person. In the past these films have either been static or boring, with cartoon comedy the height of innovation. But not now. The new film was impressive, with each segment located in a different province or territory. I was particularly taken with the ‘how to fasten your seatbelt’ segment, which starred a young woman on a dog sled in the Yukon. The illustration of how to brace yourself in an emergency, by leaning forward and holding your ankles, was demonstrated by a beach yoga group on the shores of Prince Edward Island, and the cut-out view of the plane showing the various emergency exits had been mown into a Saskatchewan wheat field. All very clever. The final scene focused on an inshore fisherman sitting on a stool, surrounded by lobster pots and coils of rope, reaching down, and pulling a yellow safety vest from a pouch under his seat.
The flight itself was uneventful. The same breakfast was offered, but declined, and I slept a bit, and then we landed. Here I discovered that the ‘priority’ labels on one’s luggage are still more decorative than functional, attached with flair by the person who checks in the bags but tending to be ignored by those actually responsible for prioritizing the delivery of said luggage.
This is probably an opportune moment for a lengthy discourse on the relative merits of entitlement and privilege versus the proletarian equitocracy of a unionised workforce*, but I’m still mad that my luggage was almost the last item to arrive on the conveyor belt. On the plus side, most of the other 500 passengers from our Boeing 777-300 had already collected theirs and the baggage hall was nearly empty as I manoeuvred my trolley out to the taxi rank.
We stayed overnight in Vancouver, in the rain, and headed back to the airport in the morning. The Air North check-in desks are in a far corner of the ticketing hall, three desks jammed up near to the toilets and some construction. The staff were cheerful and pleasant, our bags were processed quickly, and we made our way through security to wait for the plane.
To my amazement we were served lunch, a free (!) sandwich, and then a hot chocolate chip cookie for dessert. Blissful. I highly recommend this airline.
The clouds cleared as we crossed the icefields of northern British Columbia, glacial tongues extending down the valleys between chains of sharp-peaked mountains. At Carcross the sun glinted from the roofs of houses that formed a necklace along the shore, the lake still frozen, the road a grey straight-line interruption to the natural curves of the landscape.
Mountains, glaciers, frozen lakes, boreal forest – it all seemed a long way from PEI. As we settled in for the final approach, the trees gave way to an urban landscape, an industrial estate, suburban cul-de-sacs, cars lined up at traffic lights. I am looking forward to this visit, a few days in the north at the start of a holiday that will also encompass the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia. But more on all that later.
*I thought I’d made this word up, but it seems that it was first coined a decade ago by Radu Buzescu, who according to Google was either “a Romanian noble from Wallachia in the late 1500s, during the reign of Michael the Brave”, or else someone with no social media profile on LinkedIn. I’m opting for the latter.
Buzescu, R. (2012). Equitocracy: The alternative to capitalist-ultracapitalist and socialist-communist democracies. Published by iUniverse.